Last night, we finally caved to the hype and took in a screening of The Devil Wears Prada, the film based on the novel detailing Lauren Weisberger’s brief tenure as assistant to Vogue editrix Anna Wintour. I may be the only female in America who hasn’t read the book, and I don’t really intend to. But the press on the film has been great, and I’m down for anything that features Meryl Streep, so I figured I’d take the plunge. And I’m really glad I did. Instead of a cheap-shot parody, it was a sharp and surprisingly respectful look at the ruthlessness it takes to produce the world’s premier journal of aspirational luxury. Yes, Streep’s Miranda Priestly (a thinly fictionalized Anna Wintour) is a tyrant, but I found myself cringing at each stare of icy hauteur and holding my breath as I braced for each softly delivered insult and demand. I vicariously wanted her approval as much as her beleaguered staff, not because of any liking or sympathy for her, but because she maintained the same impossible standard of perfection that she expected of the people around her. The big realization at the end was not that the world of fashion is trivial and silly, but that some people just aren’t cut out to devote their every waking moment to the advancement of their careers.

Aside from the psychological tension, the film was a feast of eye candy: clothes, shoes (I still marvel at how all those girls could sprint around in their 4-inch Jimmy Choos, having suffered through a few evenings in them myself), bags, and jewelry. As other people have noted, the younger women were a little dowdy in their stiff Chanel and Prada (duh) finery, but I guess the costumer had to make the clothes recognizable to the wider audience. But that’s a small quibble. It was definitely the best first-run film I’ve seen in a long time.

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